ANY GIVEN MONDAY:
In one 24-hour period more than 230,000 new cases of coronavirus were detected in humans – a grim record that suggests that try as the sporting world might, we are still many months from anything approaching a return to normality.
It can be easy to forget that as we watch Crusaders fans pour in like water to the Addington Showgrounds and leave a couple of hours later as smugly satisfied ice cubes.
The match between the Crusaders and Blues has been described variously as a "classic" and a "thriller".
As a neutral in it for the spectacle not the result, neither of those adjectives seems to fit as well as "okay" and "predictable". Or perhaps this neutral was asking too much.
After weeks of finding joy in vignettes, like a Jordie Barrett penalty or a Will Jordan high catch, was it too much to ask for the full picture?
Instead the anticipated match-up between defender and pretender only rarely soared above the whistle. The game's talking points could be boiled down to a charged-down conversion, a quick kick-off and Beauden Barrett's magical disappearing act.
All valid talking points but upon such small offerings it is hard to make a case for an instant classic, especially when the result was never in doubt in the final quarter.
That's not even a slight on the Blues; we've just seen this picture many times before and it nearly always ends the same way. It goes like this: plucky underdogs go toe-to-toe for three-quarters of the match before Newton's unheralded fourth law of physics kicks in – the one which states that the Crusaders must emerge on top.
The most remarkable thing about the Crusaders might just be that it doesn't matter what leaders and legends depart, the next crop have an innate understanding that this law only applies if they retain the humility to work hard for it.
This match failed to make even a tiny deposit in my memory bank for the simple reason that it had few passages of skilful play and too many moments of refereeing intervention.
It had no rhythm, but it did have soul.
That's important because – clumsy segue alert! – the defining legacy of the 2020 season is the battle for rugby's soul.
Cast your mind back to the opening paragraph. The world is in turmoil. The partisan hacks can argue whether it's through good luck or good management, but New Zealand is a few little islands of relative calm in the storm.
We're trying to return to a bit of normality, or trying to establish a new normal, and rugby has become a part of that discussion.
Covid-19 confirmed that the sport was not in good shape. There were a lot of questions about its future that needed to be asked and the answers are… really, bloody awkward.
A simple rule of economics is you give the market what it wants.
New Zealand Rugby is discovering that simple rule is incredibly complicated because its market is telling it that it wants something that cannot be delivered.
Sanzaar as we know it is probably dead except as a logistics clearing house for future Rugby Championships.
The future we're told is transtasman but how do you sell it? Simply saying the financial health of the sport precludes an eight-team (mostly) domestic Super Rugby tournament does not make people yearn for cross-border rugby.
People have flocked to Super Rugby Aotearoa in part because of circumstance but also because the rugby has "soul"; because although it is a jury-rigged tournament made up on the fly it is paradoxically seen by New Zealanders as authentic.
Years of Sanzaar mismanagement has seen that authenticity eroded from the "real" Super Rugby tournament, whether through an unloved conference system, unwise expansion, unsolvable time zone challenges or the collapse of Australian strength and depth.
All those problems were stripped away in SR Aotearoa, but in 2021 we're going to be asked to believe in cross-border rugby again.
We're going to be asked to once again care about contests we've long ignored.
It's not impossible: there was a time when the Brumbies' excellence used to stir something; when the Waratahs' perceived arrogance used to do likewise.
There was even a time when a clash against the Reds used to guarantee entertaining footy.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but then again 2019 seems like a different dimension.
The battle for Super Rugby's soul continues.
It seems the battle to locate the real Beauden Barrett is equally mystifying.
To these eyes it is actually quite simple: the real Barrett wears No 10 and from there his otherworldly skills enable him to slot back into fullback when required.
The coach-constructed Barrett starts at 15 and is asked to slot into first-receiver from time to time.
There is enough empirical evidence to suggest the first Barrett is far more useful than the second.
Richie Mo'unga was the one back to elevate himself above the rest on Saturday. He has rightly been lauded for two or three game-changing interventions.
There was a time when that would have constituted a run-of-the-mill night for Barrett.
THE MONDAY LONG READ
If you want to understand some of the issues around South African cricket, this is a good place to start.